Say, there on East Rosedale Street, didn’t that yoostabe where . . .?
This column from the 1968 city directory shows the businesses and residences along four blocks of East Rosedale Street from Thrall Street to Collard Street, which was Poly’s “central business district.”
But the 1957 city directory show that just one side of one block of that central business district was also Kids Central: It contained Ashburn’s ice cream parlor, Mott’s variety store, and the Varsity theater. The three stood side by side by side, butter pecan to pick-up sticks to Panavision.
From the 1966 Poly High School student directory. (Clip from Sherry Newman Mallory.)
Such efficiency! In that small plot of real estate you could get brain freeze, blow your allowance on a cap pistol, and watch Aldo Ray and Robert Ryan win the war with very little wear-and-tear on your U.S. Keds.
What memories the Mott’s storefront evokes! Fifty years ago, if you walked through the door on the left side of Mott’s, you were in practical, adult, no-fun country: housewares, minor hardware, stuff for ladies, stuff that had nothing to do with the real world—the world of kids. Ah, but if you walked through the door on the right side, you were aimed straight down the toy aisles—AMF and Revell model cars, jacks, jump ropes, yo-yos, dolls, board games, baseballs that went lopsided with the first solid whack from an electrical tape-gripped Louisville Slugger, brave, unblinking toy soldiers who never divulged military secrets no matter how much they were tortured by a boy with a magnifying glass and a Texas sun.
In the middle, between the left and right doors, was the checkout counter, where lived the forty-nine-cent red-ear slider turtles with painted shells. Accessories included Hartz Mountain dried-bug turtle food, and a plastic oval turtle habitat complete with painted gravel and a snap-together plastic palm tree in the center.
Remember the floor of the Mott’s store? It was wooden, shiny, and gently undulating. But you soon got your sea legs and could walk confidently on it. The sales ladies were gray and wrinkly (something that we surely would never be). But what you remember most was the smell. Mott’s had its own smell: eau de dime store, a unique bouquet that was an amalgam of the store’s diverse and concentrated stock: cheap perfumes and aftershaves, hair tonics, depilatories, baby powder, Testor model “dope,” baseball card gum, mothballs, candy, soap, Hartz Mountain dried-bug turtle food. You could be blindfolded and led door to door along Rosedale and know instantly when you entered the wonderland that was Mott’s.
Perhaps, like me, you assumed that whoever Mr. or Mrs. Mott was, he or she was a Fort Worth resident. Esters B. Mott was, rather, a resident of Dallas. And he died at age forty-four before many of us ever set a sea leg in one of his stores. The East Rosedale store was one of the first three Mott’s stores in Fort Worth, opened about 1942.
Likewise the benefactor who gave us the Ashburn ice cream stores. W. L. Ashburn lived in Denison and died in 1939. Clip is from the August 1 Dallas Morning News.
Meanwhile, back at Kids Central, what yoostabe Ashburn’s is a chain sandwich shop, what yoostabe the Varsity is a parking lot, and what yoostabe Mott’s is the TWU bookstore. Today when you go into the building that yoostabe Mott’s, all you smell are textbooks. And if you ask this kid, the smell of a Shakespeare soliloquy can’t hold a brief candle to the smell of Hartz Mountain dried-bug turtle food.